Trent Reznor, Weezer, GZA & More Partner With Apple-NASA Collaboration as Juno Reaches Jupiter

A Led Zeppelin-loving NASA scientist with help from Apple brings the cosmos to musicians and beyond.

Trent Reznor, GZA, Corinne Bailey Rae, Brad Paisley, Jim James and Weezer are among a group of artists becoming more cosmic-minded. This because Apple and NASA have just announced a partnership aimed at informing and inspiring the public on the space agency's bold explorations.

The news comes just as NASA today (July 4) is maneuvering its Juno spacecraft into Jupiter's orbit some five years and  534-million-miles from launching as part of a $1.1 billion mission with a goal no less ambitious than understanding our very origins.

"Part of the core DNA of Apple is blending science, art and technology, whether you are making an iPhone or a space probe this is true," Apple vice president Robert Kondrk said at a press conference Thursday (June 30) announcing the NASA-Apple partnership. The executive explained how the synergy will both enable musicians to create music based on NASA's missions and Apple to produce educational materials for its iTunes U program.

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A rather sleek and conceptual short film produced by Apple shown at the event featured artists Rae, Quiñ and Daye Jack expressing their fascination with and inspiration from the cosmos. The reel is backed by a haunting score courtesy of the Oscar and Grammy-winning duo Reznor (who works for Apple Music) and Atticus Ross who along Wu-Tang's GZA, country superstar Paisley, My Morning Jacket's James with Lydia Tyrrell and Weezer now have their new space-inspired music available on Apple Music and  iTunes.

(Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)
NASA's Juno spacecraft is scheduled to enter Jupiter's orbit on July 4, 2016.

NASA's Juno spacecraft is scheduled to enter Jupiter's orbit on July 4, 2016. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Dr. Scott Bolton, the mission's lead investigator and man most responsible for the overall success of the Juno mission, repeatedly explained his strong belief that innovation cannot occur without analysis and creative thought. The theoretical and experimental physicist also told Billboard none of this might have happened without a certain hammer of the Gods. 

"I stumbled onto one of my brother's albums from his record collection, Led Zeppelin II and that changed my life," he said.

Since then, Bolton, who played music growing up in Detroit, has made building bridges between science, art and space his personal mission. The scientist has worked with a number or musicians since then including Vangelis, Genesis and the late-Michael Kamon -- and he even made first contact with his early idol.

"Jimmy Page was the first person I ever gave a tape to," Bolton said. "I gave him a tape of sounds from space which was either from the Galileo spacecraft or Voyager."

Getting a tape to the Dark Lord, as the NASA mission commander learned, was perhaps more difficult than landing a spacecraft inside Jupiter's orbit from over 500 million miles away.

"I went  to give it to him and his manager was like, 'Oh sure, we get tapes all the time. We'll give it to him, sure, sure….' And I'm like, 'Wait a minute, it's not a tape of me playing guitar riffs, this is the sound from a spacecraft.'"

The physicist said he had to show Page's manager his Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA card before he left. "The next time I met Jimmy," Bolton says, "he turned to me and said, 'Do you have any more tapes?'"

During an earlier press conference on the Juno mission, Bolton played audio demonstrating the difference between the spacecraft traveling within the sun's domain (a high frequency) and entering Juno's domain (a much lower frequency) as this data this other the mission gathers will be available for the NASA-Apple musicians he personally met with.

"Different people were sparked by different aspects of Juno or space exploration or the music we discussed," he said. "This kind of collaboration is natural and organic. A lot of these artists are excited about touching nature in a new way."